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Commentary :: Organizing
Now is the Time? Now is the Time! The Potential of the Gulf Coast Crisis
04 Sep 2005
Now is the Time? Now is the Time!
The Potential of the Gulf Coast Crisis: Points for
Discussion and Intervention
We wrote this text because we felt the level of
discussion regarding the aftermath of hurricane
Katrina needs to move beyond the rhetoric of cheering
or condemning looters, cheering or condemning the
authorities, or simply crying for the victims. "Oh my
god, I can't believe this is happening," or "I told
you so," or "People are dying!" just send us talking
in circles. We want the U.S. (and possibly the world)
to launch into the unknown- the total breakdown of the
social order- and then continue pushing for a
self-organized society.

In wanting this, we encourage drawing out and publicly
defending the liberatory activities of the last 6 days
and deepening this social rupture by refusing to
confine it to the Gulf Coast. Our idea of how:
implement concrete forms of solidarity that do not
just focus on defense, but on attack.


* We are experiencing one one of the largest
disruptions of the capitalist economy and the social
order since perhaps the L.A.-fueled urban rebellions
that rippled across the country in 1992.
* Morale among the authorities is low: One-third of
the N.O. police force has deserted and the rest are
operating with limited vehicles, fuel, weapons, and
communications, National Guardsmen are openly
questioning their intervention both in N.O. and Iraq,
the N.O. Mayor has broken down publicly...
* Faith and trust in the federal and state authorities
is evaporating as aid and rescue resources are
strangely absent or diverted. Meanwhile, world watches
the starving locals on the nightly news. The National
Guard is physically blocking ordinary citizens trying
drive aid into N.O.. Bush has his lowest approval
rating ever. His rhetoric of 'death to the looters'
confuses most people who have, in the last few days,
began to sympathize with the looting (see next point).
Disgust with the government, and perhaps with
government itself, grows.
* Growing defense of unlawful acts. Many everyday
Americans are breaking from their lawful routine to
justify the looting. As the definition of crime (and
survival) shifts, agents of social control begin to
* A second crisis is threatening the stability of the
system: rising gasoline prices. People are asking,
when will it stop, who is responsible, and why even
pay? Gas theft has skyrocketed and street protests
against the hikes are rumbling across the country.
This is creating a double crisis and people are
mobilizing with the regime up against the wall. Not to
mention the military stalemate in Iraq. Can the system
be overloaded to the point of collapse? How can we
best participate in these crises?


* They are physically attacking the social order. The
stories of gunfights, arson, and looting keep
surfacing: in New Orleans, organized and sporadic
attacks on police stations, officers, and National
Guard units since the time the hurricane hit (before
the flooding) and now fires set to buildings, many of
them previously untouchable in the eyes of the poor;
and then there is the looting (most notably, guns to
carry out further attacks on the system) on a scale
far greater than what South Central L.A. experienced
in 1992.
* They are undermining capital's dominant social
relations. Mass looting throughout the Gulf Coast,
some of it quite pre-meditated and some of it outside
of the hurricane path. Every account reads as a
festive (or nervous) atmosphere with every sector of
the population partaking: black, white, Latino, men,
women, children, old, young, and even cops and wealthy
tourists. The normal forms of exchange have been
abandoned and large free markets have been reported on
the neutral ground (the median) down some New Orleans
streets. And it's not just a big 'fuck you' to those
who profit from their needs, but also a defiant stance
that everyone is entitled to enjoy themselves- what
some would call 'excesses:' beer, televisions, etc.
* The breakdown is spreading: reports of widespread
looting in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette,
Biloxi, Gulfport, and Hattiesburg and now signs that
Memphis and Houston may soon face unrest with all the
refugees from N.O.


* Refugees coming to your town? The most significant
difference between the L.A. revolt and that of New
Orleans, is that L.A. still exists. So far we have
seen looting spread to areas where the refugees are
sent, so this seems the most obvious way to expand the
attack. People used to one week of not paying for
anything (and gunfights with the police) of course
find it psychologically difficult to walk into a store
and revert back to paying (or obey the police)- any
petty thief can tell you this. Here in St. Louis,
authorities have decided to house hundreds of refugees
in an (not-so-) old county jail. Enough said.
* Target the agencies responsible for the brutal
neglect and murder of the people of New Orleans.
Salvation Army, Red Cross, FEMA, all U.S. Military
branches, etc. (More perpetrators keep being
uncovered- e.g. Outback Steakhouse was reported to be
serving food to rescue workers but denying food to the
refugees in central Louisiana.)
* Provide solidarity with 'insurgents' in N.O. It is a
very real possibility that the next week will see the
federal government engaged in a guerilla conflict with
citizens intent on defending their city. Solidarity
could means vocal support, material support, and/or
attack on our own terrain to spread the insurgency and
weaken the forces of order. Any revolt, no matter how
wonderful, will suffocate if it's not spread. Their
fight is our fight- refuse to be divided from and
condemned by potential comrades.
* Be careful what you take from the media reports.
Don't believe the government statements. First-hand
accounts and even on-the-ground corporate media
reports provide a vastly different story than the
official line. And it is those stories that must
surface so we can't be divided into bad looters and
good looters, armed gangs and rescuers, unemployed and
workers, etc.
* Harness the sudden spirit of mutual aid. Outsiders
are offering help for the displaced. Feelings of
mutual aid not only pervade in the looted street
markets of battered N.O., but also in those who were
not there. But, as usual, it is mostly misdirected to
paternalistic aid organizations (Red Cross and
Salvation Army- both of which have abandoned the
survivors), though housing offers seem to be bypassing
these large organizations.

- a handful of St. Louis' unwanted children of capital
September 3, 2005

* This is the result of discussions between comrades
here in St. Louis over the last 6 days concerning the
situation just down-river from us- discussions which
will no doubt continue. We want to encourage a
breaking out of discussions across the country on the
implications and potentialities of the
post-catastrophe situation in America. This is a
hastily written text that we acknowledge has many
gaps. Please help us fill them and share any
discussions you have had with comrades in your city,
whether it be inside or outside the Gulf region. If
you want to respond to us directly, please do so as a
'comment' here:

This work is in the public domain
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